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Poster: light into ashes Date: Mar 7, 2009 6:45pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Just me, or did (does) Weir SUCK?

I avoid later Weir, but I can make a few comments.....
His guitar tone did get worse into the '80s, but he wasn't alone - Garcia's guitar sound also became increasingly less 'natural' as the years went on. And of course, though Weir's later bellowing style was painful, Garcia wasn't always pretty to hear in those years either. On the whole a Garcia show was a much smoother listen, since I think Weir's voice wasn't suited for much besides cowboy tunes.

As for songs - Weir's songs tend to have strange rhythms and nonexistent melodies. The Dead often turned this into an advantage though, by finding some great jamming spaces in these unusual arrangements. WRS/Let It Grow is probably a classic example of a really awkward song that became a jamming behemoth.

I don't have the knowledge to talk about Weir as a guitar player unfortunately, but I like whatever he's doing in those early jams....the interplay with Garcia & Lesh just works for me. He may be a minor third partner, sitting out some of the time or just tentatively putting in a chord now & then - but it would be hard for me to find a jam I think he spoils.
HOWEVER - someone said that "Jerry decided when the jam would end and not Bob". Maybe that was true in later years, but in the early '70s, Weir is usually the first to end a jam and decide to head into the nearest song. (The opposite of what you noticed, I hear him frequently cutting off Garcia's solos in his songs to start singing a verse early.) It is so frustrating, when things are gliding along and time stops for a while, and then suddenly Weir slams on the brakes. There are lots of times you can hear Garcia in mid-jam sort of sputter and clench up when Weir does that, and he has to mentally switch into that song. Garcia later mentioned that he liked gradual segues between songs, but Weir preferred sudden jumps.

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Poster: Earl B. Powell Date: Mar 7, 2009 7:12pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Just me, or did (does) Weir SUCK?

Weir admittedly viewed his role as changing through the years as a guitar player. In the beginning, he was just trying to keep up, by '71 he was a foil for Garcia which continued through 72. By the time Wake of the Flood was released, Weir actually had better "classical" skills than Garcia and a more intricate knowledge of the fretboard. His huge hands and long fingers allowed him access to unheard of alternative chord structures. This capability and knowledge resulted resulted in some of the more unusual progressions found in the catalog, a lot of it very jam-able. It also aids in making simple progressions such as Fire & Franklins sound much more complex.

The tours following WOTF show Weir to be more "riff" and "fill" oriented rather than a "driving" rhythm player. Interviews with Garcia and Weir both suggest that he was searching for a place in the mix to fit in. With the return of Mickey, and Lesh playing a very melodic bass style, the middle ground, or frequencies were thick with sound. Weir moved his work up the neck into higher frequencies competing mostly with Keith's right hand work in terms of sound. The result is Weir becoming much thinner in the mix, and his technique became even more "complimentary" than being at the forefront. (This technique is very evident on later Scarlets and FOTD's)

By the time Brent is in the band, with his electronics and Garcia begins moving to more effects, there are times in the late 70's and 80's where he virtually seems to disappear. Brent now becomes Garcia's foil and muse, the mid-range mud is thicker than ever, and even up on the neck, Weir is competing for sonic space.

One other thing to keep in mind is that Weir spent 30 years as "the understudy" or the little brother. The band was overwhelmingly about Garcia, and despite the "democratic" rule within, Weir was really just a player caught between two musical geniuses.

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Poster: Operator 552 Date: Mar 9, 2009 12:48am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Just me, or did (does) Weir SUCK?

OK, hold the phone a minute here...

>>By the time Wake of the Flood was released, Weir actually had better "classical" skills than Garcia and a more intricate knowledge of the fretboard<<

Now this just hurts. If in fact he gained a more intricate knowledge of the fretboard, he apparently remained at a loss as to how to utilize it to make music.

Non-musicians make such a big deal about Weir playing "new, different, or complex" chord voicings higher up the neck. Puh-leez. They are just chord inversions. They are only neck positions. You can learn that if you want to, go take a few lessons. It isn't crap but it isn't complex either, it is fundamental.

Without a good sense of melody and understanding of chord progressions beyond the most standard forms, and most of all GOOD EARS, figuring out a new inversion elsewhere on the next for a given chord is no big deal.

I'm not bragging. I'm not a pro musician except for the very few times I'll put something together for someone's party or a kids' school fundraiser. When I say that making use of available chord inversions WHERE THEY SOUND GOOD in any given song is standard procedure, I am not saying that I'm good at it or that my ears are so great that I can drop into any situation. I am just saying, from a musician's standpoint, giving a highly paid musician strokes for knowing all the chord inversions is a fucking stretch.

And we are talking about the basic major, minor and seventh chords here. Forget about jazz chords. I can't play jazz for shit, even though I understand the theory and (what a geek) like to read jazz workbooks for fun. You want to get excited about people working out ENDLESS chord voicings, inversions, embellishments, alterations, substitutions...

Now I can already see the responses coming: 1. Weir never claimed to be a jazz player! How unfair to judge him against jazz players!
2. You love jazz so much, go listen to it and leave the poor Dead alone!

Keep in mind that this is a response to people who are always trying to tell me how complex Weir's playing was. Well, it wasn't. Lots of it was very cool and fit in there really well. And lots of it was truly hunt-and-peck.

Ideally, a musician has an idea in the mind and then tries to get it on the instrument. Weir's playing often sounded (sounds) to me -- and I know because I am guilty of it when I'm over my head in a playing situation -- like he starts out by thinking" I wonder what'll happen if I change this chord and put this finger... HERE..." and only afterwards hears what it sounds like. This is why his written-out, or permanently fixed parts are usually good, but his improv and space jamming... mmmmm not so much. Musician-wise, one of the real unforgivable sins is not knowing where to "lay out." I know great players who don't really have such hot technical skill or even know how, but they have good ears and can hear where to hop in and more importantly where to lay out. The worst guys in the world to play with are the ones who keep going, nice and loud, while they're not at all sure what to play.

More intricate knowledge of the fretboard than Garcia...cmon, make it stop.

As Hunter Thompson said, Even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then.